Saturday, April 27, 2024

One and Done

A quite interesting (and supremely rare) Topps salesman's sample recently came across my transom, courtesy of Friend o'the Archive Larry Sarver.  While most samples are related to Topps Baseball cards, and ran through 1967, with the occasional Football piece mixed in, non-sports samples are almost never seen.  In this case, Topps was hawking one of the best sets they ever produced: 1955's Rails & Sails!

True salesman's samples had only just premiered with the 1952 Baseball set, so this is an early one indeed and Topps was still tweaking the formula here:

Isn't that a thing of beauty?! The reverse is just as intriguing, with a pitch clearly aimed at the father's of the time:

Two cards numbers are obscured by the sticker (which I will get to in a second), they are, from the top #37 and #73. However, the blurb drawing attention to the first four color backs for a Topps set really caught my eye.  Topps was constantly trying to improve and sharpen the look of their cards at this time as they were attempting to outpace Bowman with everything they issued. Bowman never really managed to make their card backs all that exciting, whereas Topps began using all sorts of little illustrations and clever graphics on their reverses in earnest starting with Wings in 1952, although their use of color was limited originally, gradually improving as 1955 rolled around.

Here's the thing though-shortly after this set came out, Topps ended up buying Bowman and pulled back to a limited use of color on the card backs!  I'm trying to ID the next set with four color backs put out by Topps and am really coming up blank.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tape Measure Job

I picked up an opened penny pack of circa 1950 Bazooka last month in large part due to the fact the bubble gum was still intact and not broken like one would expect after seventy five years in captivity. And yes, I know this is not normal behavior! So I thought a measured look at this prize was in order and am happy to report my findings.

The first packs of one cent Bazooka came out in the late summer/early fall of 1949 and included two series of comics: Spalding Sports Show and Historical Almanac.  These came in a foil wrapper that's pretty close to the one I am diving into here but has clear differences marking it as the ur-penny pack of Bazooka. Based upon the sheer amount of known subjects (over 120 at last count), Historical Almanac seems to have run for some time, whereas Willard Mullin's SSS was a licensing deal that looks to have concluded after its first run. My theory is that Historical Almanac was then printed along with a set of comics called either Sports Oddities and/or Know Your Sports, noting the former of those titles was bestowed by the American Card Catalog. Whatever you call it, these comics had the look of Spalding Sports Show to a degree but with no Willard Mullin art.  This came foil-wrapped like so in penny form:

I note that the white background behind "young America's favorite" was added after the debut run of Bazooka; if that motto is just printed on plain foil with no background it's from the first run 1949 packs, at least that's how I view it: This wrapper measures 2" x 2 13/16" if you're scoring at home.  Since there's no titles on the one cent version of the comics called Know Your Sports in nickel form, this may be a Sports Oddities example in terms of nomenclature but it's hard to tell as these are scarce little suckers overall and there could also be two very similar sets, or one with different styles:

That RBI mark has long since fallen BTW, and is currently held by Fernando Tatis who clocked two grand slams in one inning in 1999! Fred Merkle was the first to notch the feat in 1911, followed by Bob Johnson in 1937 before Tom McBride did it in 1945.  It was again reached in late 1950 and then several times thereafter until Tatis slugged his way to immortality.

The Bazooka proper came loosely protected (lengthwise it seems) in this little advert glassine strip, measuring 1 1/8" x 2 7/8":

The bubble gum resembled the Topps Gum of the era, which Bazooka was rapidly forcing out of the limelight:

7/8" x 1 3/8" on that gum tab folks, plus it's 3/16" high, but note it was a double stack, so 3/8" high as packed as these two long-fused pieces show:

None of the production marks or packaging rips known with Topps Gum and pretty much every small tattoo issue from the company through the 1970's can be seen, so it's pretty clear Bazooka had a discrete production line.

I really dig the pre-Bazooka Joe comics and little inserts Topps marketed as they tried to find their way with what was once the world's most famous bubble gum.  Hopefully more foil-wrapped items turn up every now and then for further examination!

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Chew 'Em If Ya Got 'Em

The origins of Topps directly relate back to the American Leaf Tobacco Company, founded by family patriarch Morris Shorin (Chigorinsky at the time) in 1908 after he branched out from rolling cigars as his livelihood. ALTC operated more or less through 1938 and in between Morris and four of his sons dabbled in real estate and gas stations before Topps launched.  Using the tobacco jobber (wholesale) distribution network ALTC had relied upon gave Topps a big advantage when they started selling their namesake gum as they didn't have to build one from the ground up.

I have searched high and low for ALTC ephemera, to no avail despite what would seem like a perfect fit using matchbooks to advertise the business.  I don't expect there to be any remnants of their real estate business out there, while a fair number of promotional items from their American Gas Stations chain (17 Brooklyn locations at its peak) were produced and can be found with some diligence. 

So it's not surprising that Topps produced Bubble Gum Cigarettes at one point in their long history.  The product was called Nickel Pak, as this scan from BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd shows:

The typeface pegs this as early 60's effort, or thereabouts.  Topps loved to drop the "c" from "pack" as a distinctive mark-perhaps it allowed them trademark protections?  

Lonnie Cummins was able to provide a shot of the contents of one:

Those are actual graphics from the real coffin nail packs of the day kids-yikes! I see five different brands and suspect the use of real pack imagery was viewed as a good thing by the tobacco companies (and Topps!).

In terms of ownership, Pall Mall was/is a British American Tobacco Company brand, Winston is owned by R.J. Reynolds and Chesterfield belongs to Philip Morris (as does the namesake pack).  Kool is another British American produced brand but is owned by Imperial Tobacco-dig the penguin! So it was a group effort to market to the kiddies.

I'm finding conflicting information but Candy cigarettes were seemingly banned by the F.D.A. in the U.S. only as late as 2009 but oddly Bubble Gum cigarettes appear to still be OK to sell, so long as the packaging does not resemble the adult product. Weird.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Krinkle In Time

Topps did some interesting cross-marketing over the years, which was often quite innovative, such as when they contracted with the Barker Greeting Card Company of Cincinnati to affix their penny packs of Varsity, Hocus Focus (which today we call Magic Photo) and the like to Christmas and Birthday cards in the late 1940's. You could also look to the Doeskin Tissues tie-in with Wings and Rails & Sails or the Red Ball Jets packs that contained even more of the fabulously over-produced Wings cards. However, on occasion Topps allowed for some cross-marketing the other way, i.e. with an outside product getting inside a pack of Topps or Bazooka. One very early example of this was a circa 1951 tie-in with Post Cereal's Krinkles.

I'm reasonably sure this image, provided by BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd, came inside a pack of Topps cards, as opposed to a nickel roll of bubble gum but don't quote me on that:

You may recognize St. Paul as a Topps premium fulfillment provider address from around 1965 to 1973 or so; it was a third party concern though, Topps had no ownership. It sure seems possible the same firm handled these little gadget-y premiums. 

That murky little illustration of the cereal box was pretty spot-on:

(Courtesy Mr, Breakfast)

Krinkles were soon to be called Sugar Rice Krinkles and would feature Krinkles the Clown as their somewhat terrifying mascot by 1955. Here, check it out:

They debuted however, likely in a test scenario, in 1949 or 1950. The Post's box above is from 1951 and the "candy kiss" was originally provided by a combination of sugar and honey-wheeeeeee!!

The premiums tying-in with Bazooka were space-age themed. These are the flying saucer ring components, which also did double duty as a Captain Video premium from Power House candy bars. Note one of the discs (the lighter one I'd wager) is likely the glow-in-the dark one, as advertised:

Each disc was a whopping two inches in diameter! 

The Viking rockets were little bit more colorful and came via the Jack Garvin Company in Providence:

That launching base was 1 1/8 inches in diameter and the white rocket glowed in the dark. This is confirmed by a separate premium offer sheet for these, perhaps from an old comic book or magazine:

All those premium images were nicked from Hake's Auctions by the way, man that rocket must have been about the size of a golf tee!